Saturday, February 10, 2018

Where Life Begins

I ran into an interesting quote from Sartre earlier: "Life begins on the other side of despair." When I saw this quote, my mind immediately went to Estelle. The way I interpreted the quote was that one's existence can't truly be created unless a change is made. If you live your life continuing in whatever state you were born in, you aren't creating a life for yourself. You were given this life. Although Estelle claims she grew up poor, I don't buy into that. When she was talking about her parties and lifestyle, she was genuinely shocked that Inez, an actual member of the labor class, had never attended an extravagant event. Estelle clearly grew up somewhat affluent and was able to sustain her lavish lifestyle by marrying a wealthy man. Thus, her life, at least in the socioeconomic realm, was given to her. Her actions didn't create a new essence for herself. But maybe if Estelle was able to experience different lifestyles and people, she could have changed her fate. Maybe she could have learned the futility of her lavish events and clothing and could have formed a different outlook on herself.

Another aspect of the quote is the word despair. The "other side of despair" makes me think of the rainbow after the rain or some other cliche imagery of happiness after suffering. I think what Sartre is saying is that pain ultimately defines one's ability to create their own essence as well. If Estelle could experience the hardships of others and be able to push through them, her narrow perspective of the world would be widened and the depths of her essence would expand. In her own life, Estelle never dealt with pain or suffering because she escaped all of her problems. When her wealth was threatened, she married a rich man. When she gave birth to an illegitimate child, she killed the baby. When she began seeing a young lover, she withheld information of her past. She never exposed herself to pain and so she never got through it. 

"Hell is Other People"

If one line can sum up No Exit, it's this one. As Garcin, Inez, and Estelle soon realize, Hell is in fact not the stereotypical, fiery doom, and torturous device-y place we imagine it to be. There are no hot flames or pain, just people. It really doesn't seem that bad at first glance. You can learn to tolerate the people you're with and maybe even hope to befriend them. Regardless, you're not in total physical agony at all times. So what's the problem? The Gaze. 

Garcin, Inez, and Estelle can never be alone again. They can never try to forget their actions in life because they each serve as a constant reminder to the others. They can never attain closure, and their memories will haunt them eternally. Most importantly, they will never be able to finally shed their fabricated outward dispositions and be themselves. Everyone's different when they're alone; when you're under the speculation of anyone else, you change. For some, like Estelle, you want to look your best. For others, like Garcin, you want to appear stronger. But, when you're alone, you're comfortable with who you are underneath the lipstick and news articles. There's a sense of security and ease when you know what you are is all you need to be. But, Garcin, Estelle, and Inez will never be able to experience this feeling. They will always feel pressured to look and behave a certain way under the scrutiny of others. Moreover, they can never relish in a few hours of sleep or even a millisecond of blinking to escape reality. In this way, they will have the company of each other for eternity, but they will be forever alone, trapped in the existence they have created for themselves. Freedom cannot even be dreamed of. 

Sounds like hell to me. 

Mirrors and No Exit

In the play, Estelle constantly worries about finding a mirror to do her makeup or see if she is alive. This reminded me of an article and youtube video I saw about how mirrors really lie to us. The article talks about how a man named John Walter one day flipped the way his hair parted and realized that mirrors were lying to us this whole time. Mirrors flip the image that they reflect, so when you view yourself in the mirror you aren't seeing yourself how everyone else sees you. If you ever saw a picture of yourself and thought you looked off, it is probably because you are used to seeing the reflection of yourself in the mirror. One example that the article brought up was how Abraham Lincoln saw himself versus how the world saw him.

I'm sure we have all this very famous photo of Abraham Lincoln. When the world looks at Abe Lincoln, this is what they see.

Here is another photo of Abe.

Here is how Abe would have seen himself in the mirror. Now the difference isn't that big, but there is definitely a clear difference between the two photos. 

Is Estelle a Narcissist?

In class this week as we were discussing No Exit, we began to wonder if Estelle was a Narcissist. So I decided to take a quiz as Estelle to see if she was truly Narcissist. You can take the quiz for yourself too. It only takes a few minutes. Here is the link if you would like to take it:  There are only about 9 questions in the entire quiz, so it shouldn't take you too long.

Here are my results. It says Estelle has only a moderate indication of narcissistic personality disorder. I thought Estelle would have been more narcissistic especially when I was taking the quiz. I answered almost every question as often or very often. I only answered sometimes twice and didn't answer never or rarely one time. Maybe some of you guys should take the quiz and share your results!

7 Fun Facts About Simone de Beauvoir

  1. Her dad claimed that she “thought like a man.”  (High praise from…a man.)
  2. When she took the agregation in philosophy at age 21 (a test to rank students in a subject), she was the youngest person ever to pass and only the 9th woman.  And the only person to beat her was Jean-Paul Sartre.
  3. Although at first very devout, when she was 14 she turned to atheism.
  4. She had an “open relationship” with Jean-Paul Sartre.
  5. If you’ve ever heard the quote, “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman,” that’s her.
  6. Her book The Second Sex got put on the Index of Prohibited Books!  (Bet she was excited about that.)
  7. Upon her death, the newspaper headlines read, “Women, you owe her everything.”

No Exit From the Subjection of Women

John Stuart Mill got me thinking in terms of the situations of the women in No Exit, especially about the institution of marriage.  So here are some of my thoughts:

First, Garcin’s wife.  She’s really sort of trapped with this awful man who disrespects her entirely.   Garcin continually refers to plucking her out of the sewage, so perhaps she feels the need to stay with him out of a sense of obligation.  Garcin claims that she admires him, and maybe that’s true, but can we really totally trust Garcin?  This guy has a huge ego, after all.  Perhaps Garcin’s wife is actually staying because she feels a sense of duty to this guy who married her—which just shows how many women were shoved into marriage, or else had to face consequences such as maybe being thrown out of the house.  Who knows what really happened with Garcin’s wife?  I guess I’m just speculating, but it seems to me that she’s actually trapped by the institution of marriage.

Then there’s Inez.  Inez, because she is a lesbian, doesn’t have the option of marrying for love.  Inez is despicable, but she’s also trapped by her circumstances.  I’m not making excuses for this woman, but her life seems pretty bleak.  She has all this hatred and rage bottled up inside of her; that’s got to be fuel for the ways she acts, the way she tries to control people and get under other people’s skin.  She’s very spiteful—another similarity to the Underground Man (whom I mentioned in my previous post).  Women were expected to marry—and to marry men, but that part goes without saying.  So Inez, just like Garcin’s wife, is trapped by the expectation of marriage.

And finally, Estelle.  Again, as I said in my previous post, Estelle reminds me a lot of Edna Pontellier.  Both women were definitely trapped.  I really don’t think Estelle sees a way out of her situation, that is, having this child who is born from an affair.  Edna, likewise, doesn’t see a way out of her unhappy marriage.  I think Estelle, like the previous two women I mentioned, is again trapped by the institution of marriage.  She didn’t marry for love; she married for money, because as a woman, she probably didn’t have any other way to support her brother.  She’s trapped by this marriage, has an affair, and produces an unwanted child whom she has to keep secret from her husband and the rest of society.  I guess we could reproach Estelle for not following her heart and marrying for love, but that would be sort of an empty comment, in my opinion.  Ideals are nice and everything, but sometimes people have to do what’s just practical to survive, and for Estelle, saving her brother could very well have meant marrying a rich guy she didn’t truly love, sacrificing her own happiness for her sibling’s.

The Trio in Hell

So the number three is significant in many of the works we’ve read so far (The Inferno, The Metamorphosis, et cetera).  Of course, it’s also significant in No Exit, primarily in the form of the three sinners in Hell.  We also see the number three in the number of victims of Estelle (two women, one man) and Inez (husband, lover, child).

Interesting how all three of these characters share at least one sin - adultery.  I think they all have different motives, though.  Garcin cheats because he’s tied up in his own lust, Estelle because she wants to feel wanted, and Inez because…well, she’s a bit complicated as well, but I’d say she sleeps with her cousin’s wife partly because she just wants to feel like she owns someone else.  A bit creepy, kind of like the Underground Man.

All three of these characters are also despicable in their own ways.  Garcin at some points seems like the most redeemable of the bunch, until you remember he beat his wife and made her serve drinks to him and another woman in bed.  Now that’s just disgusting.  I can’t believe he even has the nerve to say he doesn’t regret his actions.  I think he truly does feel guilty, but doesn’t want to face his guilt.  Well, too bad, Garcin!  Have fun spending the rest of eternity trying to avoid your sins!  I just have very little sympathy for this horrible person.  He tries to act all high and mighty (“I saved my wife from the gutter, you see”) but in reality he’s just as bad as everyone else.  This guy seriously needs to own up to his actions and feel some remorse for what he’s done to his wife.  Honestly, I’m kind of relieved he’s dead so he can’t abuse his wife anymore.

Then there’s Inez.  Inez is a little bit weird.  She just kind of creeps me out.  Who sleeps with their cousin’s spouse?!?  It’s like she feels some sort of need to own other people.  Again, I can see some similarities to the Underground Man, because her concept of love is very twisted—then again, so is everyone else’s in the room.

Finally, Estelle.  I get that she didn’t want to have the baby, but I don’t get how she could bring herself to kill a child.  She kind of reminds me of Edna from The Awakening, maybe because of the scene with the ocean and death.  Then again, Edna didn’t kill a baby. 

Those were just some of the thoughts running around in my head about No Exit.  What do y’all think of the characters?